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Safety awareness, camaraderie built at cycle rally at Fort Sill

The "Freedom's Thunder" Motorcycle Safety Rally that was to have taken place Thursday was canceled due to weather and will be rescheduled at a later time, according to John Cordes, safety director for the Fires Center of Excellence.

"We're not going to put anybody here at risk, period," Cordes told hundreds of riders gathered inside Sheridan Theater for a safety briefing by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Clint Riddle.

Individual riders could get with their mentors and go on a short ride at Fort Sill's motorcycle range for an assessment of their safety skills, if they chose. Participants heard Riddle give a presentation on high-speed maneuvers to take evasive action when a car or animal darts in front of them. He also set up OHP's mobile classroom in the parking lot.

The point of the rally is to teach soldiers and civilians how to stay safe on their motorcycles, according to Garry Gaede, artillery safety manager with the Fort Sill Safety Office.

"Primarily we're looking at motorcycle maintenance, making sure they know how to do that. We have mentors at battery, battalion and brigade levels, and it gives them the opportunity to visually watch riders to make sure they're doing things the correct way. If they're doing something not correct or they're novice riders, then we can pull them over to the side of the road. That's why we have multiple stops along the way, and they can make corrective actions and then go off to the next area," Gaede said.

The rally is also a way to build camaraderie among soldiers, civilians and different organizations on Fort Sill.

Motorcycle safety is very important, Gaede stressed. The Army has lost a lot of soldiers to motorcycle accidents. Though Fort Sill has been lucky this year, it has not been immune to motorcycle fatalities in past years.

Accidents and near misses

Cordes reports that in fiscal year 2016 there were 11 motorcycle accidents at Fort Sill. Four of those were near misses, which means the accident occurred but the rider was unhurt. Seven riders did get injured, some of them seriously.

So far in fiscal 2017 there have been five motorcycle accidents with two near misses, Cordes said.

Gaede said the Army requires all soldiers who ride motorcycles on post to go through the basic course for motorcycle safety. Then, within 90 days on Fort Sill, they have to take either the experienced rider course or the sport bike riders course. That continues their training so they will become better riders, he noted.

The motorcycle safety rally happens once a year, but each brigade, battalion and battery have their own individual rides, so they probably do this once a quarter, Gaede added.

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